Background: Going back to the well for another look at a series released piecemeal fashion (how I typically long for season sets of anime), I found that the parameters of missing two full volumes was not as distracting as it could have been with Eureka Seven: V7. Not all anime series involve wars between countries with a number showing a smaller scale to much better effect. Typically showing the smaller group as the underdog (though referred to as terrorists by the propaganda machine of the larger forces they fight) as the good guys who are battling some form of injustice. The dynamic of such a show is different than one where global (and space borne) fighting such as the Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny series presents, requiring a different writing style and animation techniques to truly work. One show that I've found to be particularly interesting in how it is evolving is the Eureka Seven series, with a great many fans agreeing with me if you go by the positive buzz generated all over the internet and by organizations handing out awards is concerned. Today's look at Eureka Seven: V7 is a case in point; taking the team in a new direction as they find themselves dealing with the repercussions of events that took place in the last two volumes (that never showed up for review), in the form of a couple of colleagues of Holland and the gang of Gekkostate.
Series: Eureka Seven is one of those series that people into mech robot fighting seem to really enjoy as a unique and interesting way of combining many of the elements that seem to be clichés when tossed into a series without reason. This was a special one as I pointed out months ago, writing: "Eureka Seven V1, a science fiction anime show that focuses on one such youth of tomorrow by the name of Renton Thurston. Renton is fourteen years old, lives with his grandfather, and spends his days dreaming of lifting (a futuristic version of skateboarding that uses the planet's "trapar", or floating energy particles, as a source of energy to fly with). His father was a hero who literally saved the world and young Renton is something of a slacker whose only dreams revolve around his idol lifter, Holland and the group he leads called the Gekkostate. People live in small city states with a loose knit government that has some form of corporate oversight (unexplained by the end of the five episodes included here) and Gekkostate is a form of traveling group of lifters that have elevated the sport to an art form. They generally do as they please and seem to fit into some sort of shady operation that the authorities know about but the general public doesn't. It becomes clear that they are being hunted down by the KLF (the military arm of the government) during the first episode with Renton quickly placed in the middle of the fight.
Okay, the premise of this futuristic story is that 14 year old Renton seeks a life of glory and adventure. He finds that one day with a young blue haired girl named Eureka, crashes her LFO (a large mech-robot) into his grandfather's repair hanger. It being a military device of great power, it strikes Renton as curious that such a cute young thing would be piloting it but one thing leads to another with him falling for her (as young men tend to do). She is chased by the authorities however and after some minor repair work, she's on her way. Interestingly enough though, Renton's idol is associated with the girl and comes to pay a visit to the shop where his presence is immediately denounced by grandfather, making it clear that the man was affiliated with his son (Renton's dad). This intrigues young Renton, who ends up installing a special device onto Eureka's LFO (called the Nirvash; the prototype LFO and far more advanced than the retro-engineering of the government has been able to install in their own LFO's) called the Amiga Drive. This device greatly enhances the power of the already unstoppable robot at the hands of Eureka, leaving Renton with a choice of whether he should join the Gekkostate or not. Despite his grandfather's emotional pleas, he leaves with them in order to live his dream life, not realizing that the reality of his situation is far different from the fantasy he has built up over the years (like running away and joining the circus).
In Eureka Seven V1, Eureka Seven V2, Eureka Seven V3, and Eureka Seven V4 the premise had been set up to that the world in which lead Renton lived in was turned upside down. He left the comforts of home and the security of being with his grandfather to chase a dream that involved his idol, Holland, and a girl he became infatuated with, Eureka. Holland knew more about the boy than he let on and had some ulterior motive for bringing him on the trip but that was underplayed for the most part, with the occasional exception of Renton's ability to access the Amiga Drive on the Nirvana. Holland was far more mysterious and temperamental than originally thought and Eureka seemed to be getting ill for some reason, perhaps related to Renton's connection with the Nirvash when the team made way to a near mythical portal that was appearing in a nearby area. The portal appeared to be a tsunami of trapar but no one seemed able to explain the wonders, and dangers, to Renton before he was cast into it as co-pilot with Eureka. The down side was that the military also saw fit to access the portal, called a Coralian, with a Nirvash class ship of their own, piloted by a young girl that looked very much like Eureka, named Anemone. Her handler was a ranking officer that looked much like Renton, called Dominic, and it was clear he cared for her in a similar manner too. The main thrust of the show this time seemed to be tied exclusively to events that happened in the missing volumes 5 and 6 so while I was clueless as to the extent of how it all interacted, I could make out the basics with all the character exposition going on (typical for an anime release, though not usually for one I liked so much as the previous volumes of this series).
The episodes this time were 27) Helter Skelter, 28) Memento Mori, 29) Keep On Movin', and Change of Life. Okay, a lot of what goes on was clearly related to the last two volumes and since those never came in for review, I'll just have to wing it. Some day, I'll get around to picking them up on sale or something and I'm sure not going to ruin my own enjoyment by reading someone else's spoiler-filled review on another website (I hate spoilers!). The main thrust initially involved two mercenary types by the names of Ray and Charles. While I figured this was a metaphor for the blindness of their devotion to duty, it struck me as an inappropriate use of names on a couple of levels. That said, the opening half dealt with their operation to secure a strike against Gekkostate; both having mixed feelings considering events where they must have become close to Renton since they were close friends.
Things did not work out for them and the result leaves Renton in a deep depression over the continuing way his life is out of his control, though Eureka seems to have undergone something positive in the interim considering her ability to enjoy life again (the last I saw of her, she was not doing so well). It was a different type of action for the most part though and I liked it a lot, except for the convenient ending of course. The next major development had to do with Dominic, a new character when I last visited the series, searching out information from Renton's grandfather and former associates, showing his growth but leaving me with a ton of questions as a result. Still, while a break from the main action, it served to show an opponent of Renton studying his own complicity in the events unraveling before him, leaving me wondering where Anemone was during his mission. The volume ended with the heavily damaged Nirvash needing repairs yet again, this time at a military base; the exact opposite of where they wanted to go but for Holland's own little dilemma. Renton saved the day in a couple of ways of course but the kudos he receives do not end there as he tries to earnestly become one of the crew in other ways as well.
I really like this show and you may want to adjust your rating significantly from my suggestion of giving it a Recommended if you've seen the previous couple of episodes, but I have to go with what I see and how it plays out against the previous volumes reviewed. Renton is showing some significant character growth and some of the others in this largely ensemble cast do likewise with various nods to other genre shows serving it well in my eyes. The extras certainly helped expand some of the ideas too but I strongly suggest you see all the episodes in order to get the most out of what transpires if at all possible.
Picture: Eureka Seven: V7 was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color it was produced in for airing on television in Japan starting in the last year or so (yes, it's that new). It looked very appealing as eye candy with no obvious flaws to speak of and a lot of care taken to insure that the motion during the battle and flying sequences was handled to minimize the flaws so many older shows have displayed in recent years. There didn't appear to be a lot of corner cutting in general and the closer I looked at it, the better it looked to me.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choice of the 2.0 tracks: both the original Japanese track and the English language dub most of us have come to expect from anime. The two tracks seemed worlds apart in terms of the vocals, with the original track sounding somewhat more fluid and the dub having lots of liberties taken with the translation (I believe this was done to more accurately convey the sense of the material without devolving into the need for lots of explanations on cultural differences). In that sense, each offers up a different experience; both worth checking out. The special effects and music tracks seemed slightly louder and more pronounced on the dub, though the dynamic range was indistinguishable to my ears without a side by side comparison. None of the characters were immediately noticed as being wrong for their roles though, a step up from many contemporary releases (both original tracks and dubs alike).
Extras: For me, the best extra was the audio commentary on Helter Skelter by the Japanese voice actors for Renton (Yuko Sanpei), Eureka (Kaori Nazuka), Kaori Nazuka (Charles), and Aya Hisakawara (Ray)as the group is specially placed to know more about the show than almost anyone else. The addition of some trailers to other shows and the latest version of the Japanese interviews were kind of cool too. It is always fun and rewarding to see quality companies offer up a balance in the extras, though few seem to be willing to provide such extras on a regular basis. This time, the voice actors providing some lengthy interview footage, with English subtitles to help those of us that are not fluent in the language, was the best extra for my purposes.
Final Thoughts: Eureka Seven: V7 appeared to be the kind of morality play that is common in Japanese anime, with themes of religious persecution, popularity versus doing the right thing, and the pitfalls of hero worship. I sense there is also an environmental theme running somewhat deeper too (with more evidence this time then last involving the mysterious trapar) but the bottom line is less about the bigger picture this early in the series than the levels of technical and written excellence. There were some rough edges but I sensed that the story was going to be longer than just a season, or at least paced that way up front, so having established most of the basics this early; the series can do a lot more with what has been laid down. In all, the series is growing on me a whole lot and I hope the DVDs are as popular with those of you out there that prefer commercial free, unedited episodes over the cable versions. Eureka Seven is one of the better titles released this year, providing some of the finest animation seen out of Japan but also enough mental floss to keep you guessing as to where it is going as well.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, Best of Anime 2005, and Best of Anime 2006 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.